This was probably taken while my family and I lived in a Displaced Persons' camp in northern Germany.
I was fortunate to have been born.
When the Communists invaded Latvia during World War 2, they arrested my father to kill him because he owned land. Fortunately, some of his buddies ripped out the jail window bars so he could crawl out. After months of hiding in the forest, he gathered his wife–my mom–and a few belongings into a wooden horse-drawn cart and, under a constant rain of artillery shells, trudged toward freedom. I was born along the way.
Eventually, we immigrated to the United States, where I became a US citizen, graduated with a bachelor's degree from the University of California at Berkeley, then received a master's degree in fine arts from California State University at Sacramento.
After 10 years of teaching high school art and photography, then a year of teaching special education teachers all while doing wedding photography every weekend, my wife put her foot down. Choose one career. After a beer or three, I chose photography.
Now I write, photograph and create videos for a long list of winery and corporate clients as well as publications like National Geographic, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Outdoor Photographer and a variety of travel magazines.
I’ve also created three wine-related books; the most recent, China The New Wine Frontier won Best in the World; Oregon the Taste of Wine, won a handful of international awards including “Best Regional Book in North America,” and Wine Spectator called it "one of the top reads for wine lovers.” Imagine that, the book isn’t even about wine. It's about the people. While working on my first book, Pacific Northwest The Ultimate Winery Guide, published by Chronicle, gave me a chance to meet the people and learn the wines of the region, including the Okanagan. Three new books are in the works.
I was so happy to have made it through the first of many live radio interviews about my second wine-related book, Oregon The Taste of Wine. While the book won all kinds of awards—like a gold medal for best regional book in North America, several international awards and Wine Spectator magazine called it "one of the top reads for wine lovers"—alas, I did not win anything for my radio performances.
Way out in China's western desert of Xinjinag province, the General Manager of Changyu Chateau Baron Balboa holds up a copy of my third table-top wine book, China the New Wine Frontier. While the book won awards like Best in the World, it is only available in China.
The Chinese publisher paid to fly me first class to Beijing to receive the Best in the World award for the China The New Wine Frontier book. While I was there, to my complete surprise, I learned that French-based Gourmand named me one of the top two wine photographers in North America.
In 1999, I started a major personal project We All Have Five Fingers. For this I’ve traveled to the most remote tribes in the Birthplace of Modern Humans, Africa, to learn from the elders, shamans, witch doctors, storytellers, and chiefs their myths and archetypal dreams. For all but one of the tribes, I am the only person to have never documented their oral stories. My illustrations of those myths and dreams have been displayed in galleries throughout the United States, including at the United Nations headquarters. Click here to learn more about this project.
Talk about a blessed life. Life just doesn’t get any better. Let’s have a glass of wine.
Here I am with the Himba tribe chief of a tiny village in the northern Namibia while working on the We All Have Five Fingers Project.
While traveling to Africa's most remote tribes, I blogged regularly using a satellite connection. Of course, every blogger needs a guard.
A big thank you to all of the people who have helped with the Africa We All Have Five Fingers Adventure. This is not a solo project.
A special thank you to Edward Vidinghof, seen in the photograph working the sound board for a standing-room-only presentation. Not only has my friend, an incredible National Geographic photographer, provided great guidance and insightful advice, but also given freely countless hours of technical help, especially with world-class sound. Thank you, Ed.